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The Initiative for Religion and Civic Life

The Vision: American University will be the nationally recognized leader in marshalling the deep well-springs of religious faith to effect meaningful social change.

The Mission: To make clear the connections between faith and social action for the good of the public and to effect meaningful social change.

To effect this vision and meet this mission, the hoped-for Center for Religion and Civic Life (CRCL) will take shape in four progressive stages. Prior to the securing of independent funding, the pilot programs will take place under the umbrella of the "Initiative for Religion and Civic Life" (IRCL)

Stage One: Pilot Programs and Associate Chaplain for Civic Life

Overview: The initial stage starts with modest objectives: an associate chaplain (part or full-time) to work with other chaplains to fully develop a vocational mentoring program and assist students in opportunities for engagement. This program would exist within the context of existent campus religious life and engage those communities through the work of the students involved in the Initiative's programs.

Necessary elements of stage one:

Hiring of Associate Chaplain for Civic Life The Associate Chaplain would work with University Chaplain and United Methodist Chaplain to develops social justice and community action opportunities for students, and to coordinate the vocational mentoring program.

Vocational Mentoring A diverse group of professors, chaplains, and staff will serve as mentors, vetted and coordinated by the Associate Chaplain into a mentoring program enabling students to draw connections between their spiritual lives and their career goals.

Social Justice and Civic Engagement Opportunities Identification of local service-learning opportunities will give an outlet to express their faith, and will emphasize an understanding of vocation as a calling that serves both the individual and the community.

Requirements for implementation:

  • Funding for Part time salary/contract: approx. $20,000 (source: UMC/fundraising)
  • Provision of workspace in Kay Chapel or Metropolitan Memorial UMC, including standard AU chaplain/staff privileges (source: AU Kay Center/MMUMC)

UPDATE: This stage was implemented beginning in the fall of 2011.

Stage Two: Interdisciplinary Participation and Research Opportunities

Overview: Stage two will broaden the IRCL to include the university's schools and academic majors. Through faculty contributions to a quarterly publication of the IRCL and through student research projects for academic credit, the IRCL will become an authority on the relationship between spirituality and civic life, serving as a resource for universities, churches, and other organizations.

Elements of Stage Two

Interdisciplinary coursework Professors will teach for-credit courses on the relationship between religion and civic life. Once the number of courses has achieved a sufficient number, a distinct pre-professional program can be created.

Research Opportunities Research projects for academic credit are offered to students to build a body of research literature for the IRCL. An online journal or newsletter of the IRCL will offer faculty the opportunity to publish and contribute their own research, while building the name and reputation of the IRCL as a resource.

Student internships Summer or semester-long internships that enable students to experience career possibilities and receive mentoring from an expert in a particular field. Students will reflect on their experience through weekly theological reflection papers and meetings with peer groups and mentors. Eventually, these internships will provide academic credit.

Requirements for Implementation

  • Creation of courses (or identification of suitable extant courses) to form base of educational component. Consent of provost and deans for creation of interdisciplinary course program and pre-professional certification program. (source: AU College of Arts & Sciences/Provost)
  • Provision of undergraduate research grants for research projects, comparable to other undergraduate research programs. (source: American University/Foundations)
  • Funding for the publication of a quarterly journal. (source: AU/fundraising/subscriptions)
  • Creation of affiliated internship programs for academic credit. (source: AU)

Stage Three: Research grants, pre-professional programs, and increased visibility

Overview: The program will expand to include pre-professional programs and community participation. This stage enables the IRCL to become a nationally recognized authority on the relationship between religion and civic life, faith and vocation, and the religious experience of young adults. Through a lecture series program, the IRCL will become an essential public venue for discussing the relationship of faith and politics.

Elements of Stage Three

Research grants • Substantial grants for students, faculty, and outside individuals or groups who wish to do excellent research on the relationship between religion and civic life will be offered.

Pre-professional programs • Pre-professional programs for students who wish to enter into the ministry, non-profit leadership, public service, and other careers either religious or secular will be established by the University, allowing for graduation with a certificate in Religion and Civic Life.

Lecture Series and Guest Faculty • A lecture series will host prestigious lecturers from the public policy, non-profit, and religious sectors. The University will sponsor a scholar-in-residence program, inviting visiting faculty to contribute to the work of the IRCL.

Requirements for Implementation

  • Funding for faculty, staff, and outside research grants. (source: UMC/AU/other denominations)
  • Creation of a certification or pre-professional program, allowing students to graduate with a certificate in Religion and Civic Life. (source: Provost/AU CAS)
  • Funding for scholar-in-residence program. (source: UMC/fundraising/other)

Stage Four: Expanded facilities and national recognition

Overview: The Center reaches its ultimate conception as a nationally recognized center, with its own personnel, research library, and offices. The Center will host national conferences for campus ministers, policy makers, and religious leaders, while continuing to engage one-on-one with students, serving as both campus ministry and academic resource.

Elements of Stage Four

Expansion of Kay Spiritual Life Center • Attached to the Kay Spiritual Life Center, situated visibly along Massachusetts Avenue, expanded facilities will house classrooms, a research library, and personnel offices.

National Conferences • The CRCL will organize national conferences on the intersection between faith and public life. (source: AU)

Requirements for Implementation

  • Funding for the expansion of the Kay Spiritual Life Center, not only to meet that institution's existing need (which is substantial) but to accommodate the resources for the center (library, offices). (source: AU/UMC/capital campaign/donors/other religious bodies)
  • Cooperation from other University departments in conference planning and space allocation for the national conferences planned by the Center. (source: AU)


At the end of this process we will have established a nationally recognized center that (1) assists students in vocational discernment, (2) connects students to opportunities for community engagement, (3) trains leaders to draw upon the deep reservoirs of faith and religious tradition to effect social change, (4) builds a body of literature and other resources useful in helping other institutions, agencies, and the church to do likewise, (5) becomes a major draw for students seeking to put their faith into action and help others to do the same, (6) raises the University's profile locally and nationally, and (7) helps to effect meaningful social change and to make a difference in people's lives.

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